Discussion guide for February 2023 issue

In each issue of the Outlook, we include a discussion guide to further reflect on the issue. We recommend using this guide in your Bible study, small group or book club. It's our invitation into a faithful conversation.

When death becomes you by Dana Purdom


  1. How does hoping to die quickly, painlessly, during sleep, and without being a burden leave us unprepared for dying?
  2. Read Hebrews 2:10-18. How does Christian discipleship give meaning to Christian dying? How can our dying witness to our faithful, gracious God?
  3. The death doula provides a ministry, even a priestly role, incarnating God’s sovereign care amid the pain and loneliness of dying. Based on your reading of Purdom’s article, how would you describe this ministry?
  4. Would you consider employing a death doula for a loved one’s demise? For your own? Why?

Transition: Purdom contends that ours is a death-denying culture. Daniel Ott agrees, offering an alternative based on the earthy wisdom of Ecclesiastes—enjoy the day, embrace your life, for all is vapor.

No wisdom in Sheol by Daniel Ott


  1. Qoheleth (“the Teacher”) gathers disciples for instruction and conversation on death and its significance for how we should Where in our culture do we gather to discuss death and its implications for living?
  2. How would you summarize Ecclesiastes’ compelling non-death-denying theology of death? Why?
  3. How might Ott’s theology of death inform the church’s practices to cultivate faith, hope and love in our living and dying?
  4. “In life and in death, we belong to ” How does belonging to God in life and death help you enjoy life’s good times and accept adversity as gifts from God?

Transition: Born to new life in baptism’s maternal waters, we receive the grace that shapes how we live and die. Vern Farnum argues that the Christian faith prepares us to face death, offering encouragement and hope.

Faithfully dying by Vern Farnum


  1. Have you prepared your last will and testament? In what sense is your will your Christian testimony?
  2. Have you indicated your end-of-life decisions with an advanced directive? In what sense do you see the directive as an act of compassion for your loved ones?
  3. Have you discussed your final arrangements (funeral, memorial service, burial) with your community? How can these conversations relieve them of important decisions and business?
  4. Have you considered making a recording (audio or video) of yourself in which you offer your blessings, hopes, and dreams for those who remain? How can such a recording provide solace for those who grieve?

Transition: Psalm 24 calls us to acknowledge, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” God entrusts the care of the earth to us. As an expression of Christian discipleship, we serve as stewards of creation. Teri Ott asks us to consider a stewardship issue related to our passing: the green burial.

Exploring the green burial by Teri McDowell Ott


  1. How do you imagine your burial? Will you choose cremation? What other options are there?
  2. What is your reaction to Ott’s article? Does green burial appeal to you? Why?
  3. “Green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat” (Green Burial Council). Where does the council’s mission statement align with your sense of responsibility to the earth?
  4. Visit the photo gallery at org. What emotions do you sense in you as you peruse the photos? Why?

Transition: Our compassionate concern for the dying extends beyond their deaths to the living. Andy Gans ponders ways the church embraces those who grieve in its proclamation—preaching the sermon on the occasion of death.

How to preach a funeral by Andy Gans


  1. What was the most gratifying funeral you have attended? What made it so?
  2. Read Romans 6:3-11. How does remembering your baptism influence your understanding of life as God’s gift to you?
  3. “A Christian funeral is a continuation and elaboration of the baptismal service. … not just a connection of inspiring words said on the occasion of someone’s death” (Tom Long). What aspects of the baptismal theology and liturgy should find a place in the sermon and Christian funeral?
  4. How can a funeral sermon comfort the grieving and help to prepare worshipers to die well?